by Jenny Brown

As a young girl I loved the Little House stories and was inspired by the adventuresome little half-pint, Laura. She was a kindred spirit in my early childhood years and I wanted to be just like her; I knew I would never and could never be a quiet, content with sitting, always do the right thing Mary!

Now, thirty years later I am still reading these timeless stories to my children and finding them just as inspiring as when I was young, but in a brand new way. 

My husband loves these stories as well and the past couple weeks he has been reading them aloud to us every night!

There is rich daily-life history and detail in these stories and if you are paying close enough attention, you will find great lessons for living self-sufficiently even in today’s world.

‘Farmer Boy’ is my favorite ‘boy’ book; I’ve read it at least once to all my young men.  At nine years old, Almanzo had his own oxen team with which he trained to log and plow.  He was in charge of plowing and planting a 3 acre corn field. Nine years old!! So boys, no more complaining about the row of peas you’ve been asked to help plant!

I wonder if Laura knew how much of her daily life would become a lost art when she wrote these books.

We have implemented several ideas that we’ve gleaned from these books right here on our own land, such as storing root crops in a hole in the ground. We’ve even been inspired to pop popcorn over the wood-stove and one of these days I plan to give Almanzo’s milk-fed pumpkin a try. There are mentions throughout her books of various things that make you say “Oh, that’s where that came from!”

In her last book, ‘The First Four Years’, Laura mentions a ‘pie plant’ which she said made for a very bitter pie the time she forgot to sugar it. Today, this plant is known as the rhubarb plant. Although it goes by a different name, it is still used in pies and crisps as a sign of summer approaching, just as it was 150 years ago!

It contains just enough vitamin C to have helped prevent the pioneers from contracting scurvy.

If you don’t  have one growing on your property, sometimes neighbors LOOK for people to give stalks to or you might be able to get a start from a friend’s plant. It usually takes a year or two after transplanting before the plant is happily established and producing well. Be sure to place it in rich soil and full sun for the best size and flavor.

Yesterday I harvested rhubarb (or ‘pie plant’) from the plants that came with our property. It is likely these plants have been here since the original homesteaders of our area.


Rhubarb recipes are harder to come by…this older recipe book has it listed beneath slivers, soar throat, and sunburn!



This recipe below is my own creation:


Cut the largest, reddest stalks from the base of the plant and rinse off all dirt.

Select the reddest portions of the stalks (I use some green but too much green will effect the flavor)

Slice 8 cups of rhubarb, 1/8 – 1/4″ thick.

Use a sharp butcher knife with a sliding movement on the cutting board when slicing; this will help to separate the slices (they are stringy, like celery).



Add to sliced rhubarb:

3c sugar, stir, and set aside.

Don’t forget to sugar the rhubarb, even in Laura’s day it didn’t taste good without it!



To make the custard:

Whisk together 6 farm fresh eggs.

Beat in: (Don’t overbeat – just get the flour clumps out)

1 c cream

1/2c all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla


Add the custard mixture to the sugared rhubarb. Stir to coat.

Pour into a 13×9″ baking pan.


To make the topping, combine and crumble by pressing through a fork (as you would pie dough):

1c brown sugar

1c flour

1c oatmeal

1c slightly softened butter

2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ginger


Add the topping…now it’s ready to bake!


Bake at 350° for 45 minutes.


We enjoyed ours at breakfast. I say eat dessert first!

Especially when it’s made with farm fresh eggs and the plant makes for a good source of potassium and calcium!

(We’ll over-look the sugar content this time.)


If you still have more rhubarb than you know what to do with, try this family recipe from a friend and neighboring farmer of ours! He says it’s delish and gives you no “fuzzy” teeth afterward!






You can skip to the end and leave a response.

One Response to “The Pie Plant (with Jenny’s Pie Plant Custard Crisp recipe)”

  1. Sara Conrad Says:

    Was looking for a custard rhubarb recipe. I’ve never heard of it. I’m making a crisp right now with my freshly harvested rhubarb.
    Nice website!

Leave a Reply